Friday, July 25, 2008

Why I chose to teach?

This question of why I teach has been on my mind recently. Very simply, I want to affect positive change in young peoples lives. I want our youth to be excited about life and live to their potential. If I can be a catalyst in a students life so they are excited about learning then my professional needs have been met. It sounds kind of egotistical and selfish and I would agree that it is. There are lots of professions that allow us to help others. When I chose to become an educator I had a captive audience and the youngest students (most impressionable I thought) to work my magic with.

Each of us has challenges throughout our lives. All of our past experiences have made each of us who we are today. This does not mean that we have to let the past determine who we are. We also do not have to let go of the past - it is a part of who we are. If life is tough for you physically, mentally, emotionally, or economically, it is up to each one of us to decide that our life can change. Hopefully there will be people that can support us in our challenges. This is not to say that change is easy. It means we have to move forward and not let our past define us.

Our students come to us with things that are beyond their control and certainly beyond ours. Society has been plagued by many terrible things, which are too many to mention here. These sad situations are everywhere - your city and mine-large and small. It is my belief that it is up to us as a society, community, school district and teacher to change for the better, the lives of all of our children. Only then will we be able to live up to our own full potential.

The question, "Why I chose to teach?" is easily summed up by my belief that excellent teachers share the joy of learning with their students. It is what I want to do.


  1. "Our students come to us with things that are beyond their control and certainly beyond ours."

    Well said! This sums up an ambivalent and huge truth about teaching - we like to think we're helping and inspiring students, but for some of them, we're merely shelter from the storm. That's not to say shelter isn't important or helpful - it sometimes allows enough time, safety and resources to plan an escape from the storms. But what many new teachers (and people outside the teaching profession) don't comprehend is that many students with enormous potential and amazing talent get sidetracked by domestic or cultural influences, no matter how well we teach or how much we care or how many ways we try to inspire or help them.

    I took it so personally for many years when I'd see a student, years after I taught him or her, languishing as a dropout or arrested for drug possession or pregnant before graduating. What did I do wrong? How could I have helped more?


    I'm certainly not saying to throw our hands up and shrug it all off because circumstances are "out of our control," but it is important to toughen our skins and keep a realistic perspective so that we don't burn out emotionally and spiritually.

    We're like ushers, in a sense, escorting these precious beings from one year to the next within our safe classrooms. If they'll listen to us, we can whisper in their ears and suggest which ways to turn, but we can't force them to follow our lead. They go home, they move on, they leave us.

    I like to think that our persistent, caring influence - those ushering whispers - become like "voices in their heads" and effectively turn a child's life around. I have just as many success stories as I have disappointments, so I'm an eternal optimist. But I've had to will myself to be one. If I agonize over the dark side of our culture and the domestic maladies that face so many of our kids, I will end up so completely disheartened and defeated that I won't be effective as an educator.

  2. Heidi, I have recently posted on the same subject.

    I guess the summer,with its luxury of free time, is a great opportunity to reflect on why we chose the profession we did.

    I share the same feeling as you about living up to my full potential through teaching.

    Great post.

  3. Thank you Sharon for your eloquent and thoughtful comments. It is not easy to be a teacher.

  4. Sharon communicated most of what I was thinking quite eloquently already. "Making a difference" seems so cliche, yet I would say if that's not at least one of your primary motivations in teaching, you're in the wrong profession. Ideally a teacher can not only share but inspire a love of learning in students who may have never felt it before. I hope I can. I mean, I could define my job by the content standards-- at the end of the year, do they know this, are they able to do that-- but while I believe standards must guide our instruction, it's the human element that guides our teaching-- and therein lies the difference between the two.